Lizard - the liminal landscape

Colin Perry By Colin Perry, 27th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>England>Devon & Cornwall

Lizard, the most southerly point of the UK mainland - a dramatic coastline, regarded as the birthplace of modern communications, and yet a world apart.

Most Southerly Point

As you reach the end of the A3083 after heading southbound to the Cornish village of Lizard, you come literally to the end of the road. Amid the liminal landscape of the peninsula, the ‘most southerly’ theme is much in evidence: Smugglers, in Lizard village, advertises itself as the most southerly fish & chip shop on the UK mainland; head down the narrow lane leading to the sea and you are greeted by ‘The Most Southerly Gift Shop’.

Following the South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path winds its way around this piece of coastline. We spent a morning discovering the route from Lizard Point eastwards to Cadgwith, a stretch of approximately four miles. The pathway is owned by the National Trust, who, in the past 20 years, have maintained this for the enjoyment of walkers and also had all power and telephone cables buried underground and the telegraph poles removed to create an uninterrupted view of the coast.

It's a one-mile walk from Lizard Point to the lighthouse with its distinctive twin white towers, built in 1751 and owned and operated by Trinity House since 1771. A little further on, as you turn towards Housel Bay, is the Lion's Den – a sea cave which collapsed in 1847, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the cliff.

Housel Beach to Bass Point

Housel Beach is one of several secluded coves, almost underneath the Housel Bay Hotel and coastal path. The beach is accessible via the steps from the pathway, although they end about three quarters of the way down, so you need to clamber over the rocks to complete your route. There is a sense of sanctuary down there. The water was icy cold for our visit in early spring, but refreshing and energising nevertheless for those who care to take a dip.

Continuing eastwards you pass the Lizard Wireless Station, the oldest surviving operational wireless station in the world, dating back to 1901. The station, also owned by the National Trust, is open to visitors at certain times. It was here that Guglielmo Marconi came at the beginning of the 20th century in search of a coastal radio station to perform ground-breaking tests of his signalling equipment with passing ships.

At nearby Bass Point, just beyond a small herd of Shetland ponies, you pass a cliff-top lookout station, closed by HM Coastguard but re-opened by volunteers in December 1994 after two local fishermen drowned when their boat capsized within sight of the station. It now costs over £5000 per year to run the station and there is a collection box next to the coastal path where donations from passers-by are welcomed.

The Devil's Frying Pan

Passing Kilcobben Cove, home to the RNLI lifeboat station, you pass picturesque thatched cottages standing on the 200-metre high cliff tops, before the path drops down to Church Cove with its now disused lifeboat house.

Climbing back up and continuing east, there is a mile of more cliff-top walking before you reach the ominously-named Devil's Frying Pan, another collapsed sea cave with its distinctive arched entrance, formed when the roof of the cave fell in.


The pathway then drops again, this time in a zig-zag into the small village and fishing port of Cadgwith. Here you can relax with a drink, a meal or of course a Cornish cream tea in The Old Cellars restaurant, an 18th century building where pilchards used to be pressed and salted. Converted to a restaurant and bar in 1975 and now owned by a local fisherman and his family, the building still retains its original pebbled floor at the entrance. A weather-beaten plaque on the wall commemorates the lives saved by the Cadgwith Lifeboat.

Opposite The Old Cellars are the colourful fishing boats, drawn up onto the beach, a reminder of how local people still depend heavily on the industry for their livelihood. Weather permitting, the boats still go out daily, no longer for pilchards, but for crab, lobster, mackerel, shark and mullet.


Although tourism is popular in this area, it remains low key. The landscape is unspoilt and you feel no pressure to rush around. It's a world of contrasts too: the rugged coastal terrain is exposed to the sometimes fierce elements, yet the region enjoys the mildest climate in Britain.

During the five days we spent on this coastline only the weakest of signals on my smartphone faded in and out, as if I was skirting the boundary between two different worlds: that of our modern, high-tech society, and an environment far removed from this. A liminal landscape it certainly is.


Cadgwith, Cornwall, Lizard, Marconi, South West Coast Path

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author avatar Colin Perry
I'm a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about sports and travel.

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author avatar Retired
27th Nov 2014 (#)

Ooh from the pictures it looks a stunning place.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
28th Nov 2014 (#)

Good to look through the window to the past. Thanks for this share, Colin - siva

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author avatar Paul Lines
3rd Dec 2014 (#)

A great journey through a beautiful part of England Colin

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